Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Michelle DeRusha Gets Real

Want to know the name of one my favorite nonfiction books? I’m not only going to give you the name of the book, I’m hooking you up with my interview with the author today.
Michelle DeRusha & SPIRITUAL MISFIT...

Wendy: As a native New Englander I could relate with your apprehension about moving to the Midwest. We’ve moved all over the country, but settled down in Ohio for several years. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your transition to Nebraska. I loved the line, “In New England…God was not discussed over coffee and blueberry muffins.” What do you think it would be like if you moved back to New England? You mention how much a place can define us. Do you still feel as though you’re partially defined by your New England roots?

Michelle: I am definitely still defined by my New England heritage and by my Catholic roots as well. Once a Catholic New Englander, always a Catholic New Englander, apparently! In all seriousness, though, when I visit Massachusetts, it still feels like my true home, mainly because my whole extended family is there. I’ve realized that’s the key for me: home isn’t so much a place as it is a people.
That said, I’m sure I also romanticize and sentimentalize New England because I don’t live there anymore. Truthfully, there are plenty of aspects I notice now when I visit that don’t appeal to me: like the wild, tailgating drivers (including my own mother!), the frenetic pace and the “keeping up with the Jones” mentality that seems a little more prevalent there than here in Nebraska.
Now that I am more spiritually grounded it would be interesting to see how I would navigate faith and religion in Massachusetts if we were to move back. I suspect, even though religion is a little less overt in New England, that I would eventually find my niche there, too.

Wendy:  One of my favorite lines is “I’m beginning to think he gives us these ordinary miracles, these small blessings, these ‘Why not?’ moments in the midst of the everyday instead, so we will learn to open our eyes and see him not just in the wild, over-the-top, media-worthy miracles, but in the hundreds of everyday miracles as well.”
In Spiritual Misfit you detail a wonderful encounter with a Klee Klee. Could you explain the significance of that encounter and why you included it in your book?

Michelle:  Oh my word, I love the Klee Klee story, and it’s about a bug, for heaven’s sake! That experience in the garden was an “ah-ha” instant for me. It was as if everything dialed back into slow-motion, and I was suddenly aware that beautiful, albeit tiny, miracles were unfolding almost every moment of every day.
I included that story in the book because it was a spiritual turning point for me. I’d always yearned for the big, splashy miracle – the road-to-Damascus experience, the lightning strike moment. The whole time I was waiting for the grandiose, I’d missed the thousands of miracles taking place every day in my very own life. The day I sat on the curb and watched, mesmerized, as Klee Klee the bug crawled daintily over Rowan’s shirt, I realized I’d missed the big picture all along.

Wendy: I love how your book isn’t a three-step guide to faith. Instead, you are raw and real about how your understanding of God manifested as John Wesley describes a “heart strangely warmed.” This is so freeing, to be reminded there is no one size fits all type of faith out there. As a fellow “wrestler” I’m grateful for your candid account of warming to God. Gary Thomas wrote a book called SACRED PATHWAYS that really spoke to me about how we can all receive God quite differently. Some best through music, interaction with others, Bible reading, nature…the list goes on. When do you feel your heart is warmest to God?  

Michelle: I am most connected to God outdoors in nature. Whenever I feel spiritually disconnected or dry, I try to make a point to step outside, even for just a few minutes, and even if it’s only into my own backyard or neighborhood. Sometimes I take my camera, because snapping photos encourages me to hunker down and get close to creation, and that helps me feel God’s presence in a real, palpable way. That’s also why I prefer to run outdoors instead of indoors on a treadmill. I don’t even wear headphones, because I like to listen to the bird calls and hear myself think. 

I feel like the “right answer” to your question should be that I receive God most clearly through Scripture, and while that’s true a lot of the time, there are also times when I feel restless or even agitated when reading the Bible. Stepping into the outdoors, on the other hand, nearly always offers me a connection to God.

Wendy: You conclude your book confessing how you often still feel like a spiritual misfit. Then you remind us that “Jesus chose the outcasts and loved the misfits.” Why do you think this is so difficult for our current culture to perceive—or for any culture to perceive for that matter? What is the most pressing message you want readers to “get” from your book?
Michelle: Our culture emphasizes success, achievement and ambition, but Jesus emphasized the exact opposite. He was all about downward mobility, but because we face a constant barrage of messages that insist on the opposite, it’s difficult for us to understand, accept and live out “less is more” in our own lives.
I, think, too, that misfits – whether spiritual misfits, social misfits or any “other” for that matter – make us uncomfortable. They don’t fit into the comfortable boxes we have established for ourselves; they threaten us with their differentness.
As for the message, I hope readers finish this book realizing that faith and doubt can indeed co-exist, that questions can remain unanswered and that faith doesn’t have to be all wrapped up nice and neat and tied with a shiny, red ribbon. I want readers to know that faith is messy and that messy is okay.    
Thanks Michelle for answering each question with such thought and attention! I loved your openness to my asking them. And I am a huge fan of your book. I know it will impact many.


I’ve never encountered a book with such an insightful blend of humor and poignancy. I’ve been waiting to read DeRusha’s work in print for years. SPIRITUAL MISFIT exceeded my expectations. By tackling probing questions like can doubt and faith coexist, DeRusha writes a necessary book with a brave and witty voice that is sure to engage many wrestling and “misfit” souls.

I’ve been enthusiastically recommending SPIRITUAL MISFIT to friends and family. I’m eager to read more from DeRusha!


What are you waiting for? Go buy it.

*I almost forgot (actually, I did forget & I came back and edited is a bit crazy) I have a copy of SPIRITUAL MISFIT to give away. Comment for a chance to win your own copy!



  1. Beautiful interview & post! So fun to learn more about Michelle.

    1. Thanks! I had a blast coming up with the questions.

  2. WELL DONE. Loved your questions and her answers. Thanks so much!

    1. You won! You won! Please send me your mailing address & I'll get the book right out to you, Diana. You're going to love it!

    2. Oh, Wendy! I'm so sorry I didn't say this in my comment - but I already have Michelle's book - an ARC copy. And I loved it. LOVED it. Please pick again, okay?

  3. Thanks for posting this! I found that Michelle's story really resonated with me. I, too feel a lot closer to God in nature.

    Looking forward to reading the book!

    1. Yep, I feel close to God in nature, too, Andrew. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you, sweet Wendy! You are such a gift to me, and I cannot wait to meet you in person one of these days! I loved answering your questions - they really made me think. Love you, girl!

    1. So glad I made you think. I read your book weeks ago & I'm still thinking about it. Yes, we need to meet in person!!!


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